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    Yeoldebard
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The Troll Hunter - 6. The Old Alchemist

CASSIEL

 

“Before we start wandering around aimlessly looking for radishes in the dark, Valerie, where did you see the plants?” Cassiel asked as they neared the enormous tree.

The fighter motioned toward a large outcropping, Cassiel letting out a silent breath as he studied it for a way to climb up.

“There should be a path around the backside, if memory serves me correct,” Valerie added.

“Amiri, lead the way,” Cassiel motioned, the barbarian striding ahead easily.

She guided them around the hill, the group occasionally stopping at one of the old kobold-mite battlefields to pick up a few weapons and coins. Finally they reached the path up the hill, climbing it with a little less enthusiasm. Heading west on the hill, Linzi was the first to spot a large group of kobolds basking lazily in the sun, surrounded by piles of radishes. She made a disgusted face as a radish rolled toward her, kicking it away roughly.

“Ugh, my old village used to grow radishes. I don’t care what kind of radishes these are, they were ruined for me long ago,” she frowned.

Shaking his head, Cassiel held his bow out loosely, in a peaceful gesture as they stepped toward the kobolds. A thin voice broke out of the group, warning them back.

“Our cellestialll radissshes…”

Pausing, the magus scanned the group, spotting a pale looking kobold, his scales old and worn.

“We need some of your radishes, not all,” he said. “We can dig out extra and leave them with you as payment.”

The kobold seemed taken aback, the group around him hissing and chittering in Draconic. Cassiel wasn’t able to pick up all the words through their slurred accent, but what he heard sounded promising.

“You come… take only what needed…” the kobold shaman said finally. “Leave rest for kobold.”

Nodding, Cassiel motioned to Valerie and Amiri, joining them as they began digging up radishes from the wet dirt. Wiping them off as best they could before putting them into their bag of holding, the trio stopped at twenty, digging up another twenty for the kobolds.

“What are you doing here?” Cassiel asked conversationally as he pulled up the radishes.

“Raddisssh give ssight, make sssmall big…” the shaman slurred, biting into one of the fallen vegetables. “Sssearch for secretsss in truths…”

“By Shelyn’s light, they’re high on radishes!” Linzi laughed.

Cassiel chuckled quietly, pulling up one last root.

“Well, I guess we know why Bokken wanted them,” he said. “Thank you for sharing your bounty with us.”

“Come again, dig more radish, welcome…” the shaman said, affecting a bow that saw him tumbling into a pile of half eaten roots.

Holding back his laughter, Cassiel motioned for the group to back away, hearing several small snickers as they hurried away with their bounty. A peal of thunder rang through the area, and Cassiel let out a groan, looking up at the storm laden skies.

“I know it’s rough, but let’s push back to Nettle’s Crossing and we can shelter there for the night,” he called after a second peal.

Lightning struck the ground nearby, causing even Amiri to flinch. The half elf knew they were in for a bad storm, but if they could get far enough from the sycamore, hopefully the lightning wouldn’t be as bad.

Hurrying from the area, they set their weapons aside, hastening to mount their horses. A few hours of travel brought them to the crossing, soaked, but alive. Ducking into Davik’s old house, Theofrid worked with Valerie to set up a cover as Amiri hunted down a boar for supper. Soon, they were sitting around a drying fire, arcane sparks dancing across Theofrid’s fingers as the gnome fed the flames.

Cassiel and Theofrid worked on cooking up the boar, the two comparing various seasonings in the gnome’s bag. With the fire attended by a distracted mage, the boar burned, leaving the group with a less than pleasant meal, but warm food was not to be ignored in a storm, no matter how charred it might be.

Come morning, the storm had passed, allowing them to continue up the road to the cave Bokken had spoken of. Descending into the dark depths, Cassiel cast his light spell, bow strung as he listened to the clicking of giant mandibles that reminded him he had forgotten to take the mandibles from the old sycamore back to the mite in the tunnels.

Shaking the thought from his head, he motioned for the group to move into better positions for fighting, leaving Valerie as a rearguard as they passed into the dark cave. Beady eyes stared at them from all around, Cassiel shuddering as he set an arrow to his string.

“We’re surrounded. Because why the fuck not?” he sighed.

“Careful Theofrid, there’s a web about a foot to your right,” Linzi warned.

The gnome turned and hit the web with a ray of ice, letting out a groan.

“I think fire would work better?” Cassiel frowned, his eyes scanning the dark for their enemies.

“I know fire would work-” the gnome bit off his retort, flinching slightly. “Er… forgive me my lord. My magic seems to have reverted to ice. I have a few vials of alchemists’ fire, if you would like me to use that.”

“That’s not a bad idea,” Cassiel replied. “Watch your splash radius though.”

Valerie pulled out a steel and a piece of flint, sending a shower of sparks on the web with a small click. The web suddenly burst into flame, fire spreading over nearly thirty feet as the group looked on in horror. Whatever spider this web belonged to was no joke.

There was a loud clacking, an enormous shape descending on them from the ceiling. Theofrid yelped, grabbing a vial from his bag and hurling it at the spider. The beast vanished suddenly as liquid washed over it, and Cassiel’s eyes narrowed.

“Did… is… is it dead?” the gnome asked.

Cassiel held up his hand, motioning to Tristian. The cleric’s eyes widened, and he stepped forward, a soft prayer on his lips.

A soft blue glow appeared in the air, hovering on a thin strand as it took the shape of the spider, and Cassiel cast a withering look at Theofrid.

“Oops…” the gnome shivered.

“Someone please take the potions away from him,” Valerie grumbled, moving between the group and the spider.

“Hey, it was an honest mistake. I bet we’ll all laugh about this later,” Linzi protested. “If we survive. But if not, at least we died for comedic effect.”

“I would prefer not to die, thank you,” the fighter scowled, raising her shield.

The spider turned in the air, Cassiel sucking in a breath.

“Scatter!”

Diving toward a stalagmite, he ducked as strands of webbing flew at them, the force of the assault hurling Theofrid against a wall, where he hung in a mass of sticky silk. The rest of the group moved together, Cassiel’s bow lighting up as a ray of fire flew with his arrow. The spider sizzled loudly as it was struck, the strand of webbing holding it aloft burning up quickly from the flame. It dropped heavily, Valerie and Amiri charging forward as the sound of crossbows thumped through the cave.

An icy arrow flew into the spider’s side as Amiri’s sword cleaved through its head, gore spraying everywhere as the barbarian raged.

“LOOK AT ME GORUM!!!”

Cassiel shivered at her bellow, silently begging the god of war to pay no heed to her challenge. That was the last thing they needed. Hurrying toward Theofrid, he called on a strand of energy, a tiny spark igniting the web holding the gnome in place. Theofrid dropped heavily, the gnome letting out a loud oof as he landed.

“Is everyone okay?” Cassiel called, helping the gnome back to his feet.

“Yes, no thanks to Theofrid,” Valerie scowled.

“If it hadn’t been him, it would have been me. So you can stop with the attitude Valerie,” the magus glared.

“Yes my lord,” the fighter said, dropping her eyes instantly.

“Now, the berries should be around here, not too far in the cave. Everyone start looking, and if you find them, let me know. Linzi, Valerie, you two keep watch. I doubt that was the only spider in here.”

The group spread out, Cassiel directing his light into four lantern like orbs that followed the searchers. The lighting situation was far from ideal, but it would have to work for now.

“There!” Theofrid called, pointing to a strange pale bush that was filled with tiny red berries.

Amiri hurried towards the bush, her fingers pushing through small spikes and thorns to pluck enough of the berries to fill a tiny bag. Shoving it into their bag of holding, the barbarian shook tiny drops of blood from her fingers, Tristian chanting his healing spell over the group. It wasn’t much use, but it provided some comfort.

Scanning the cave around them, Cassiel strained his ears, motioning for the rest of the group to head for the exit. He backed away slowly, listening to a sudden series of chittering clicks, the ground moving near one of the walls. A massive swarm of spiderlings sped toward the half elf, Cassiel letting out a decidedly ignoble scream as he raced for the exit. Speeding past the others, the half elf burst out into the sunlight, a spell on his lips as he turned back toward the cave.

“Ternesj relgr!”

The ground suddenly exploded behind Theofrid, the gnome sprinting after the taller members of their party as stone rose in the air. Rocks tumbled back to the ground, spiders crushed with every bounce, and yet they continued crawling after the intruders, single minded in their starved pursuit.

Reaching into his bag, Cassiel pulled out a bottle in shaking hands, briefly looking at the scrawled writing on the side. Fire… and he threw it.

Red liquid splashed over the spiders, their bodies shimmering as the potion took effect, They crawled on as relentless as ever, completely ignoring what Cassiel had thought was a flask of alchemist fire. Now he was thinking he just made them all resistant to fire.

“Will you stop throwing potions?!” Valerie snapped, crushing a spider under her foot.

“Valignatir xarzith cha'sid!” Theofrid yelled, a spray of cloudy frost erupting from his hands as he launched a spell at the spiders.

The swarm froze solid, Valerie stomping off the last of them, and the fighter glared at the half elf.

“I do not appreciate you aiding the creatures intent on devouring us.”

“I panicked-”

“My lord, you are a baron, a noble, and the leader of our team. Whatever comes after us, you are the one we look to for guidance and strength. You do not have the luxury of panicking,” Valerie said icily.

“Come on guys, we’re safe now,” Linzi interrupted, the halfling stepping between the two.

“Linzi is correct, there is no use in fighting. We are all in one piece, no one was harmed, aside from some pride,” Tristian added. “We should hurry and return these berries to Bokken. He did say they tend to rot rather quickly after being picked.”

Cassiel nodded at the cleric, motioning for everyone to return to the horses. It wasn’t long before they were riding again, the group silent as they made their way west.

 

THEOFRID

 

They entered the trading post late at night, Bokken waiting near the entrance. It made no sense to Theofrid; had he just been waiting for the last few days?

“We got the berries and the radishes,” Cassiel said, handing a pair of bags to the alchemist.

“Excellent! And they’re perfectly fresh! I’ll have Svetlana cook them up. Here, as payment,” Bokken said, a smile wrinkling his aged face even further as he handed Cassiel a trio of potions.

“Why did you need these berries specifically?” Theofrid frowned. “There were a lot of other bushes in that area that weren’t being guarded by spiders from hell.”

“Those weren’t spiders from hell,” Amiri scoffed. “They died too easily.”

“To someone who’s barely four feet tall, they were enormous,” Linzi shuddered.

“I’ve taken shits bigger than those spiders,” Amiri smirked.

Bokken frowned, looking back at Cassiel.

“Anyway, I’ve thought about it, and while I’m no good in a court, I could use a decent hut, and maybe I’ll send some potions down to Tuskdale or Ismenia, whatever it’s called,” the alchemist said.

“There is a new settlement nearby, just south of here along the road. Osilon. You should head there, and we’ll make sure to send up supplies for a good herbalist shop,” Cassiel promised, glancing at Theofrid.

The gnome nodded; they could find the gold for the shop.

“Thank you my lord,” Bokken said, bowing almost painfully.

“Why don’t we all take a break from the road and rest up inside,” Cassiel said, looking around. “We’ll head west in the morning to the Thorn River, then follow it into the Narlmarches.”

They headed into the trading post, Oleg rising from a table to bow.

“My lord. We have your beds waiting upstairs, if you need them,” he said gruffly.

“Thank you Oleg. We will be gone early,” Cassiel promised.

“Not too early for Svetlana’s breakfast I hope,” Oleg mentioned.

“Never,” Theofrid said vehemently. “Svetlana’s breakfasts are the best. We should get her down to Ismenia so she can cook for us.”

“I don’t think she’d agree to that,” Oleg frowned. “But you are always welcome here for food.”

“We’ll keep that in mind,” Cassiel smiled, heading upstairs. “Theofrid, can you help me with the book tonight?”

“Of course my lord,” the gnome said, hurrying after the half elf.

Sitting at a tiny table as the rest of the group found their beds in the open room, Cassiel opened the book, scribbling a short greeting to Octavia in it. As they waited for a response, the half elf looked at the gnome.

“I just want you to know I’m not upset about the spider incident. Things could have gone better, but they also could have gone a lot worse.”

Theofrid frowned, staring at the table.

“Regardless, I should not have panicked like that. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. We just need to do better next time. Both of us,” Cassiel said, as writing appeared in the book.

It took some time to get everything out, Octavia sending notes and requests, making sure Cassiel knew what was happening in Ismenia. As the last of the ink dried, Cassiel sighed, leaning back in the wooden chair.

“Who would have thought being a baron would be so difficult?”

“At least there was less paperwork this time,” Theofrid said, letting out a yawn.

“Why don’t we head to bed? We do need to be up early in the morning,” Cassiel pointed out.

The half elf frowned as he realised all the beds were taken save for one.

“Or perhaps I can stay on watch,” he shrugged.

“Oh, no, don’t do that my lord, you need your sleep too,” Theofrid denied. “I’ll share a bed with Linzi, it’s not the first time we’ve shared. It’s one of the benefits of being small. I don’t take up as much space.”

“Well… it may be a little awkward, but how do you feel about sharing my bed for the night? Linzi’s already asleep, and I wouldn’t want you to wake her up,” Cassiel suggested.

“Sleep with…”

Theofrid gulped, a quiet panic building. He couldn’t take up Cassiel’s space, it was madness.

“Please. We both need our rest, and as you said yourself, you won’t take up much space,” Cassiel smirked. “Whatever argument you’re coming up with, don’t waste your effort. I will make it an order if I have to.”

Theofrid frowned, but made his way toward the bed, Cassiel following disconcertingly close.

“You don’t have to worry about appearances, Theofrid. This is necessity, nothing else,” Cassiel added as he pulled back the sheets on the bed. “No sex, no cuddling, just sleeping.”

The gnome nodded, regret coursing through him. He pushed the feeling away, there was no room for it here. The last thing he needed was to be in a sexual relationship with his lord.

“Good night my lord,” Theofrid said, resting on the edge of the bed.

“Good night Theofrid.”

Copyright © 2021 Yeoldebard; All Rights Reserved.

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Why did this remind me of a skit from Monty python...

Scanning the cave around them, Cassiel strained his ears, motioning for the rest of the group to head for the exit. He backed away slowly, listening to a sudden series of chittering clicks, the ground moving near one of the walls. A massive swarm of spiderlings sped toward the half elf, Cassiel letting out a decidedly ignoble scream as he raced for the exit. Speeding past the others, the half elf burst out into the sunlight, a spell on his lips as he turned back toward the cave.

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6 minutes ago, drsawzall said:

Why did this remind me of a skit from Monty python...

Scanning the cave around them, Cassiel strained his ears, motioning for the rest of the group to head for the exit. He backed away slowly, listening to a sudden series of chittering clicks, the ground moving near one of the walls. A massive swarm of spiderlings sped toward the half elf, Cassiel letting out a decidedly ignoble scream as he raced for the exit. Speeding past the others, the half elf burst out into the sunlight, a spell on his lips as he turned back toward the cave.

This entire scene felt like a skit from Monty Python. I was not expecting three swarms of spiders in that last cave.

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